Spring may not officially arrive until March 20, but this month's slate of live music is already warming us up and reminding us of days spent at summer music festivals. As bands make the trek to Austin for SXSW, we'll be reaping the benefits with a stacked lineup of great shows at Chicago's best venues. This month Ariana Grande returns to the United Center, Foxygen plays the Vic, Regina Spektor performs at the Chicago Theatre and Ween jams at the Aragon. Take a look at some of the best concerts in Chicago in March.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete calendar for concerts in Chicago
Concerts in Chicago in March
Los Angeles folk rockers Dawes string together the types of vocal harmonies that you haven't really heard since the last night Crosby, Stills and Nash got along with one another. The group's latest album, We're All Gonna Die, contains songs that tell stories, confronting morality and relationships with the clear-eyed lyricism and melodic heft of great the ’70s songwriters the quartet carefully emulates.
It's a double album release night at Constellation, as two Chicago-based acts celebrate (and perform) their latest projects. First up, Tortoise bassist Doug McCombs picks up a guitar and revives his long-running Brokeback project, playing sweeping, Morricone-tinged tracks from his new LP, Illinois River Valley Blues. Then, ambient artist Jaime Fennelly (better known as Mind Over Mirrors) debuts his latest record Undying Color, a trippy symphony of droning synthesizers that features members of Eleventh Dream Day, Califone and Circuit des Yeux.
Each year, the Empty Bottle thumbs its numb nose at Jack Frost by throwing a block party in the dead of winter. Considering the mild weather we've had, it could be freezing or the temperatures might be spring-like. Noisy Canadian trio METZ and New Jersey indie rockers Screaming Females headline the outdoor concert, joined by minimalist electronic act Sneaks and local shoegazers Dim. Goose Island will have booze for sale, Dark Matter is bring the coffee and Bite Cafe will warm your belly with chili. Did we mention that admission is totally free?
Austin, Texas singer-songwriter Adam Torres is an old soul with a powerful falsetto that sounds like its being piped in from across the generations of folk rock history. On his latest EP, I Came to Sing the Song, Torres presents a collection of subdued ballads that document the journey of searching for a purpose in life. He's joined by Minneapolis musician Quinn Tsan, who has previously collaborated with local acts such as Joe Pug and Sima Cunningham.
Once the kind of "freak folk," singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart has taken a turn for the (mostly) conventional over his past few albums. His latest, Ape in Pink Marble, splits the difference between the quirky folk-pop of his distant past and the subdued, whispery crooning of his more recent output.
Husband-and-wife duo Tennis wrote their first record after an eight-month sailing trip, so its no surprise that its latest work is also inspired by a nautical voyage. Featuring warm organs, crisp guitars and Alaina Moore's glistening vocals, Yours Conditionally is another slice of sunny, ’60s-influenced pop that grapples with what it means to belong in the modern world.
Phantogram is one of those bands that your grandmother has probably heard, based solely on the number of times its songs have been placed in advertisements for cars and razors. Melding taut hip-hop beats with shoegazing synths and Sarah Barthel's crisp pop vocals, the duo has worked its way from indie label obscurity to collaborations with Big Boi (under the name Big Grams). ‘90s shoegaze duo the Veldt opens the evening.
Goose Island Beer Company celebrates 312 Day with the help of Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis, who headlines a concert that honors the local brewer's made-up holiday. After celebrating the 10th anniversary of her country-tinged indie rock classic Rabbit Fur Coat last year, Lewis has flirted with post punk (as part of her new project, Nice as Fuck), sang with throwback New York rock trio EZTV and shown off her collection of airbrushed suit jackets. Psych-pop singer-songwriter Greta Morgan, better known as Springtime Carnivore, opens the show.
There's nothing very menacing about Ariana Grande's latest album, Dangerous Woman, unless you find powerful vocal performances frightening. The pop superstar goes full-diva with a collection of soaring Mariah Carey-style ballads, set alongside crossover tracks featuring Lil Wayne and Future. British pop group Little Mix and R&B singer-songwriter Victoria Monét support.
Local radio station B96 throws an all-ages St. Patrick's Day EDM rager, dubbed Lectric Leprechaun. Cake-throwing, Hollywood party mascot Steve Aoki headlines the show, bringing plenty of champagne and glossy club jams from the latest volume of his ongoing Neon Future album series. Local EDM duo Krewella, electro-pop trio Cash Cash and Canadian DJ Grandtheft support.
After years of rumors, cult favorite Pennsylvania band Ween finally reunited in 2016, appearing at numerous festivals (including Chicago's Riot Fest). The group's eclectic musical taste are still the main attraction—throughout a typical setlist, you'll hear virtuosic takes on punk rock, funk, country and soul-tinged tunes, each presented with enthusiastic gusto.
A clear-eyed West Coast MC, Staples eschews the glitz of mainstream hip-hop for biting critiques of life as a not-quite-famous rapper, backed by sinister beats from the likes of Kanye West mentor No ID and electro crooner James Blake. On his The Life Aquatic Tour, Staples is joined by Brooklyn R&B singer and Prima Donna collaborator Kilo Kush.
After several albums worth of warm, ’70s-indebted psych rock, Dungen was commissioned to create an original score to the 1926 German animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed. The fantastical film—the oldest surviving animated feature in existence—is a perfect fit for the group's usual palette of flutes, guitars and organs, which lend a moody, stoner-friendly ambiance to the tale of sorcerers and princes. Here, Dungen performs the soundtrack in its entirety amid the foliage of the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Moscow-born, Bronx-raised piano prodigy, singer and anti-folk queen Regina Spektor brings a melancholy touch to her latest collection of songs, Remember Us to Life. Her first album in four years is filled with gorgeous string arrangements and reminders of the quirky charm that often inhabits her adult contemporary-leaning arrangements.
After more than two decades, country-soul journeyman Kurt Wagner goes electronic on his band's latest album, FLOTUS. Vocoder-drenched lyrics, drum machines and synthesizers dominate this drastic change-up in the Lambchop formula, though the mumbled vocals and sparse piano arrangements still lend it some rootsy charm. Sea and Cake frontman Sam Prekop opens the evening with a solo set.
Hello, is it him you're looking for? Lionel continues aptly-titled All the Hits Tour, packing his long string of R&B hits (including his work with the Commodores) into an arena show. He's accompanied by eternal pop diva Mariah Carey, whose embarassing New Year's Eve lip-syncing snaffu seems to be water under the bridge.
Jon Bon Jovi slips on his signature leather vest for another tour with his namesake arena rock act, armed with a catalog of beloved hair metal anthems. If you've ever witnessed a rendition of "Livin' on a Prayer" at a karaoke bar, you know how much people love singing along to the group's cheesy working-class odes—prepare for a particularly cacophonous rendition at the United Center.
New Orleans nightclub organist Quintron is an inventor, both of new sounds and the tools need to make them. Onstage, he's usually playing multiple instruments at the same time, manipulating wah-wah pedals and creating beats with his Drum Buddy—a light-activated drum machine. Joined by his wife, Miss Pussycat, Quintron will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Bottle with help from rabbit-masked rocker Nobunny and classic Chicago garage rock outfit the Goblins.
Bouncing between jazz-fusion, krautrock and electronica, long-running instrumental outfit Tortoise has become even more unpredictable with age. The Chicago-based group's 2016 release, The Catastrophist, is another varied collection of twisting guitar riffs, complex rhythms and crisscrossing synthesizer melodies, strung together in characteristically adventurous arrangements. Here, Tortoise celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Empty Bottle (where the band first played in 1994) with back-to-back shows.
Though he's been playing and producing for years, guitarist and singer-songwriter M. Ward is probably best known as the non-Zooey Deschanel half of indie-pop duo She & Him, where he mostly takes a backseat to the New Girl star's chirpy vocals. On his latest solo record, More Rain, Ward offers up another batch of melancholy folk rock songs, filled with hushed vocals and pedal steel melodies that were composed with rainy days in mind. Here, he turns in a solo two-night stand at City Winery.
Recorded in the living room of a Massachusetts cottage, far from Chicago's DIY trenches where Twin Peaks cut its teeth, Down in Heaven trades in scuzzy punk rock chords for jangling acoustic guitars and pianos. The group's latest songs draw heavily upon the classic rock textbook, channeling the ramshackle swagger of the Rolling Stones and a bit of the Band's Americana twang. At this special benefit concert for the American Civil Liberties Union, the group is joined by local rock duo Redgrave and post-punk shoegazers Deeper.
Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval doesn't mind if her listeners feel a bit uncomfortable—the otherworldly tracks she creates are rife with references to sex, gender and various bodily fluids. Hval's latest, Blood Bitch, is filled with avant-garde electro-pop songs about vampires and menstrual blood that would have served as an apt soundtrack for those Twilight movies. Her performance at Pitchfork Music Festival last summer involved dancers and costume changes, so perhaps she'll embrace the gore with a crimson-soaked, GWAR-style stage show this time around? Local new age electronic act Matchess opens the evening.
Mashing up classic rock tropes with indie rock panache, Sam France and John Rado are students of quirky nostalgia with a shared love of psychedelic pop. On the duo's latest album, Hang, Foxygen channels Deep Purple's 1969 collaboration with the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra, enlisting a 40-piece symphony orchestra to accompany each song. In concert, the band has reputation for anarchic performances, complete with cryptic stage banter and speaker-scaling antics.